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Champagne and Grits

Little Axe

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Album Review

Skip McDonald's Little Axe returns for Champagne and Grits, and it could well be the band's finest, most expansive set yet. Little Axe's brand of blues-gospel-dub is probably the most interesting and adventurous of all the projects that attempt to infuse new life into the blues, and Champagne and Grits rivals their debut not only for an outstanding set of tunes, but for sheer sonic experimentation as well. Skip runs the show with plenty of help from producer Adrian Sherwood, and of course Doug Wimbish and Keith LeBlanc are on hand as well. The set starts with a pure acoustic blues, but then enters territory charted only by this band. It's still the blues, but there are gospel-flavored vocals, eerie harmonica, and fantastic dub elements all combined into a singular style. Disembodied vocals and sermons waft in and out of the ether, along with washes of electronica, soulful blues guitar, and wicked basslines. A couple of the tracks venture a bit further into reggae territory (with some help from Junior Delgado), but it still all feels bluesy despite the additional trappings. McDonald knows and respects the past, but he knows how to build on it, not enshrine it. Little Axe is the only band that does what it does, and does it brilliantly. Ancient to the future. Highly recommended.

Biography

Born: 1949 in Dayton, OH

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Little Axe was the alias of Skip McDonald, a blues performer whose list of credits also included work on some of rap music's most influential records. Born Bernard Alexander in Dayton, OH, in 1949, McDonald learned blues guitar from his father, and by the age of ten was already playing professionally with area jazz musicians. By age 12, his focus had shifted to doo wop, and he also played in a gospel quartet; after high school, he and...
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Champagne and Grits, Little Axe
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